You could, in a way, argue that Real Madrid are winners. Their form is dreadful, the football they’re playing is even worse, there are divisions in the squad, and unhappiness with the manager.
It is, in short, hard to imagine how their season could be going worse. Yet they somehow sit one point off top spot in La Liga and one point off a qualification place in the Champions League.
The even bigger, grander and more dramatic omnishambles engulfing Barcelona has provided plenty of cover, and also partly explains how Real have stumbled along so badly yet suffered no long-term damage to their prospects.
That Real managed to turn what would have been a genuinely disastrous defeat at Borussia Monchengladbach into a merely damaging draw with two late goals is also important. In a six-match group stage, point swings are a big deal and that three-point swing could be huge. Instead of being on no points and four adrift in what is really a Europa League Plus group heading into a double header against Inter, they are now just one point off second spot and back in business.
But that only means anything if they are able to lift themselves out of this ridiculous funk. And the signs are not good.
After Isco’s grumping about Zinedine Zidane’s substitutions, we now have an even more ludicrous situation of a textbook Tunnel Bust-Up that apparently includes Karim Benzema – who triggered that late revival with his 87th-minute strike – telling team-mates not to pass to Vinicius Jr because the Brazilian isn’t a team player. That’s right: one of the world’s truly great football clubs – perhaps its greatest – has been reduced to an Athletico Mince bit. Don’t pass to Vini.
It is a ridiculous mess, and salvaging a late draw at Gladbach or beating an even more shambolic Barca in a pale imitation of a Clasico despite losing to Cadiz cannot cover it forever.
Real’s squad is a mess, there are players in open revolt, the manager already looks like he might be regretting his decision to return to a club he led to three straight Champions League titles in the Before Times.
By definition, Madrid will always be something of a soap opera. It goes with the territory. But they’ve gone for some very 2020 storylines thus far, and they can’t keep relying on the incompetence of others to keep them out of the harshest spotlight.
Madrid being Madrid, they’ll probably win both La Liga and Champions League even as the whole thing burns down.
But if the next few weeks go as badly as the current direction of travel suggests they could then there is an astonishing yet very real alternative: tumbling out of the title race domestically and, for the first time this century, failing to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League and possibly even crashing out of Europe altogether.
So Patrick Bamford got us thinking about absolutely random Premier League hat-trick goalscorers. Justice for “busy” Kevin Lisbie.